Delivering On Change Projects

In his 2011 book “Cultural Change in Organisations”, Robert Crosby, founder of Leadership Institute of Seattle Graduate School of Saybrook, and Organisational Development Expert, promotes TIPI (Turnaround Intensive Planning Intervention) – a Socio-Technical breakthrough technology for achieving rapid results in business and projects. He quotes its successes of quadrupling production within Fortune 500 companies, and powerfully bringing business-critical projects back on schedule, to eventually exceed vs expected deliverables. So it’s certainly a powerful intervention, but what does it involve – and what really makes it work?

Crosby cites some critical factors for success in relation to people and processes. Firstly, all employees knowledgeable in the area must participate, and their managers must be positively sponsoring the project. He also insists that the sponsoring manager must firmly initiate the intervention and make his/her presence strongly felt within it. Critically, from a people perspective, Crosby states that an authoritative Project Manager must be in control – that is, one who is able to hold firm on deliverables and assert personal authority in an empowering manner. On the process side, the intervention usually takes 3 days, with a room divided into critical theme areas, and following a structured approach to identify impeding forces, defining solutions, creating timelines and advancing decision clarity. Follow up and project execution are planned in a detailed manner. This all seems fairly obvious so far – you need to have the right people, leadership buy-in, and a good structured process to get results, but what’s making the real difference here?

In fact, it’s the ‘Socio’ that holds the key, that is all aspects of the project or situation that are not technical - the interpersonal, intrapersonal, group processes and systemic factors. A professional and highly-skilled facilitator supports the group to attend to what is not said, reflect on the culture and ways of working they are creating, and explore their collective attitudes to risk, decisions, planning, and other critical project elements. The group needs to openly recognise failure, or potential failure in order to be able to address it, and find solutions. They must also recognise their motivations, and be supported to put in place a clear negative or positive consequence of failure or success which they feel comfortable to work to. The facilitator is crucial, and with Crosby’s original laboratory learning experiences of T-Groups in the 1950’s, he has a firm base from which to operate and be highly effective.

Good technical and process advances within the group (e.g. high quality plans, new material solutions, or decision trees) are not enough to deliver best results. For real success, the people involved must feel more connected, so they can appreciate and use their differences, and be able to listen to & understand each other efficiently. It is the facilitator’s job to achieve this, and he/she can do this best when coming from a position of ‘not knowing’, or being neutral, noticing and reflecting group process, and guiding conflict resolution. Achieving a stimulating blend of human and business-based processes is the essence and power of the Socio-Technical approach.

Utilising a structured Socio-Technical approach such as TIPI facilitates the systemic ‘socio’ factors to ‘appear’ rather than be missing, as is often the case in standard approaches to key projects. The unspeakable conversations happen to comfortably reach the heart of issues and produce creative solutions, enabling critical business projects to deliver.

Reference: Crosby, R.P. (2011) Cultural Change in Organisations. Vivo Publishing.